French artist and filmmaker Philippe Parreno rose to prominence in the 1990s alongside peers Pierre Huyghe, Rirkrit Tiravanija, Liam Gillick, Douglas Gordon, and Dominique Gonzalez-Foerster, under the rubric of relational aesthetics. This was a predicament defined in 1998 by the French art critic Nicolas Bourriaud to describe artworks that disperse authorial voice and denature art objects into a network of social relations. To this day Parreno continues to conceive artworks as scripted spaces in which events unfold. Through film, sculpture, performance, drawing, and text, his exhibitions engage viewers’ multiple senses and points of perspective.
Parreno’s earliest works examined the formation of images and their mode of exhibition. In 1999, along with Huyghe, Parreno purchased the rights to a Japanese manga figure they named Annlee. Together they invited other artists to produce works using her likeness before transferring her copyright to the Annlee Association, a legal entity that assured Annlee ownership of her own image. Parreno has since sought new ways to expand artworks as spatial and durational environments. Zidane: A 21st Century Portrait (2006) is a mesmerizing portrait of an individual unfolded in time. Shot by cinematographer Darius Khondji, seventeen synchronized cameras follow the French football star Zinedine Zidane throughout an entire match, accompanied only by the player’s subtitled thoughts and a soundtrack by the Scottish postrock band Mogwai. A more recent venture with Hans-Ulrich Obrist is an exhibition delimited not by space but by time.
Parreno’s desire to appoint works to a specific location and duration is in part indebted to conceptual artist Daniel Buren’s in situ sculptural interventions. His contribution for the Biennale is split between two sites. In the Giardini, intended to be experienced as a video game, Parreno creates an immersive, participatory event that navigates across multiple spaces. No longer confined to a scripted space, Parreno transforms this work into an opportunity to structure experience beyond the museum walls. Meanwhile, at the Arsenale, his installation Flickering Lights infiltrates several galleries and guides us deeper into the exhibition.